The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lone crusade, 21 years long
- Fight against corruption costs Surya Sen’s grandson dear

His grandfather, Surya Sen (Masterda to followers), passed into folklore fighting the British. Though 63-year-old Tarunendu Sen lives in a free country, he, too, has fought for a cause and paid heavily for it.

Sen lost his job protesting against corruption and it is only recently that the high court has awarded him the justice he has been seeking for the past 21 years. But his battle is not yet over; he has had to return to the legal corridors to claim what is, apparently, rightfully his.

Sen was a quality-control manager at Jessop’s Panihati unit in 1981 when he found sub-standard materials being pushed into the factory. He tried to resist the move but was over-ruled, provoking him into taking up the matter with officials in the ministry.

He soon realised that he had made a mistake. The management hit back hard and he soon found himself dismissed from service. The allegation against Sen — upheld by an internal probe — was that he had not given up official accommodation even though he had shifted to his own house.

The Jessop management also initiated a criminal case against Sen in June 1982 for “illegally holding on to a company bungalow”. This prompted him to fight it out in the Barrackpore sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s (SDJM) court. He told the court that the Jessop management had “deliberately” not taken possession of the official accommodation vacated by him. Before that, he added, the management had withdrawn his securitymen, gardeners and sweepers.

The court found merit in Sen’s arguments. As did then public accounts committee chairman and MP Sunil Maitra who, in his report, said the management had compromised national security and public interest by purchasing sub-standard materials. It also helped that a Jessop-manufactured train compartment was involved in a manufacturing-defect mishap.

Jessop, however, went to Calcutta High Court against the lower court’s order. But Justice M.K. Mukherjee upheld the SDJM’s verdict, exonerating Sen from any wrong-doing, with reference to the company bungalow. The management, however, did not give up. It filed for a revision and got it; Justice K.M. Yusuf ruled against Sen, who filed an appeal against the order in a division bench.

The bench, comprising Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice D.P. Sengupta, recently ruled in Sen’s favour. The charges levelled by the management were unfounded, the court said, and the probe by the company was “erroneous”. The inquiry officer was not following the company’s rules, the judges added, and directed Jessop to give Sen his salary arrears and retirement benefits.

The court calculated that Sen would get more than Rs 19 lakh in dues. But the cheque that Sen received from the firm last week was for Rs 2.31 lakh, his lawyer, Ajay Ray, said. Sen is now again in court, with a contempt case.

Masterda’s grandson has lost a lot — “including my wife to insanity”, he laments — on his lone crusade. But now there is no turning back.

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